Had a few impromptu days at Britford, just below Salisbury, a few weeks ago. The weather was a little frustrating, and I didn’t catch any fish, but what a beautiful place. We stayed in a cottage at Bridge Farm which is literally a two minute walk from the fishery.
Wednesday dawned bright and with blue skies. I bought my ticket from Stuart the bailiff who also gave me some advice about where to fish. There was someone fishing the upstream beat so I went downstream to the sluice where the two arms of the Avon converge and fished upstream from there. I saw a couple of nice trout, but nothing rising whatsoever, and by the time I’d fished up I had not had a take. I spoke to the chap fishing the top section and he said he’d had rising fish, and caught several trout to 2lb. The following day we swapped beats but, typically, the wind picked up and was gusting quite strongly downstream, and I gave up after a frustrating hour. I didn’t bump into my fellow angler, but I know the downstream section is considerably more sheltered than the upstream one. But that, as they say, is fishing.
I spent a fair bit of time exploring the old water meadows. The old sluices, mains and drains are not in use anymore though I believe they do flood some of it to an extent. It’s interesting to see this lost landscape; as well as the old sluices and remains of the channels down which the Avon’s water was used to irrigate the meadows there are numerous pollarded trees.
This was the intensive farming of its day. By flooding the meadows and keeping them frost free in the winter they were able to provide earlier grazing for their livestock, as well as a harvestable hay crop. These days they’re left pretty much to the wildlife apart from a few that have been restored by charities like just upstream at Harnham. I saw several watervoles which much prefer them to the fast flows of the river-proper, grass snakes, barn owls, roe deer, and more swifts, swallows and martins in one place than I’ve ever seen before.